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Iran court delays verdict for 2 US men

Associated Press / August 1, 2011

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TEHRAN - The lawyer for two Americans jailed in Iran on charges of espionage said yesterday that the court will announce its verdict within a week, dashing hopes for their immediate release after a final hearing in the case.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, have been held in Iran’s Evin Prison since shortly after their arrest along the border with Iraq exactly two years ago yesterday. The case has added to tensions between the United States and Iran that were already high over issues like Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

The Americans’ lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, had hoped that yesterday’s final court session would result in their immediate release because it coincided with the two-year anniversary of their arrest and came near the start this week of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when pardons are traditionally handed down.

Shafiei said he and the two Americans presented closing arguments in their defense and the court announced the end of its hearings.

He said he was still hopeful that, if found guilty, his clients would be sentenced to time already served and released.

Bauer’s fiancee, Sarah Shourd, was arrested with them on July 31, 2009, but was released last September on $500,000 bail. She did not return to Iran for the rest of the trial, but Shafiei said he delivered a defense for her as well yesterday.

The Americans deny the charges and say they were merely hiking in a scenic and largely peaceful area of northern Iraq near the Iranian border. While other parts of Iraq remain troubled by violence, the semiautonomous Kurdistan region has drawn tourists in recent years to its scenic mountains.

Shafiei insisted there is no evidence to prove espionage, and the US government has appealed for the two men to be released, insisting that they have done nothing wrong.

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